The former Team Shanghai had defeated the Lads, and proved exactly how capable they were to Qian Lu. Once that was done, they all left for their respective homes for the night. The next day, all of them met up at the NetCow Cafe and started preparing themselves inside their usual private room. Today was the first day of the Battle Bonanza, and every match from here on out counted. The Battle Bonanza tournament officially started at noon. Teams aiming for the Conqueror prize would set out to challenge other internet cafe teams, and the teams aiming for the Immovable Mt. Tai prize would stand guard on their home turf awaiting these challengers.
It was only 11:30 AM, relatively early for a normal day at an internet cafe. But the lobby of Qian Lu’s branch of the NetCow Cafe was already packed with customers. And there were even more sitting down at computers, but not playing any games. Everyone’s attention was focused on the center of the room, and hushed and tense whispers carried through the entire internet cafe. Literally none of the customers at the NetCow Cafe today came to play games. They were all here to witness the start of the Battle Bonanza. More than that, they wanted to see how the internet cafe’s team performed. As regular patrons of this branch of the NetCow Cafe, their pride was on the line too.
“It’s about to start soon, right? It’s gotta start soon!”
“It’s already 11:30, there’s only 30 minutes before the first challenger walks in here.”
“Oh shit! Where’s our team?”
“Yeah! I don’t see them either.”
“They should be here already…”
“Listen listen listen! I got a buddy, he hangs out at the Wyvern NetCafe next door. He was telling me that they signed up for this tournament too, but I think they’re aiming for the Conqueror prize. Those guys are probably going to come challenge us!”
“Shit, real talk? You know how good their team is?”
“I heard a few things. Their team is made up of Diamond 2 players, and they’ve got one who is even a Master!”
“Hot-diggity-damn! A Master? Well, that’s shit luck… that’s kinda strong.”
“Foshizzle my rizzle. My buddy, he was going on and on about how the Wyvern NetCafe’s team is going to walk in here and stomp all over our asses. He even said they’re going to make us their bitchnochizzles!”
“Dude… your friend sounds like a raging asshole. You need to make better friends, no lie. Not only does he sound like an ass, he’s way too cocky about a match he’s not even playing in!”
“I know right! He pissed me off too. Whatever. The only thing I can do is hope that our team does really well… But I’d REALLY like it if they taught those Wyvern bastards a lesson so I can rub my friend’s face in it.”
“Yeah, fuck that dude. He’s a douche.”
“He’s hardstuck in Bronze too!”
“Lol! Lol! Lol!”
“I don’t know why I’m friends with him, he thinks he’s gangster because he has some rap music on his Microsoft Zune.”
“Wtf is a Zune?”
“Sssssshhhh! No one cares about your friend or his Zune!”
“Yeah. Who asked?”
The customers continued to talk amongst themselves, riling each other up more and more while building up hype for the first challenger to walk through the doors of the NetCow Cafe. All while watching the center of the cafe.
“I’m guessing that’s where the match is going to take place?”
“You’re a regular genius! What was your first clue? The stage?”
“Hey guys! We got a real Sherlock Holmes here! He’s cracked the case!”
“You bringing those skills over to the army, Captain Obvious?”
“Man’s gonna tell us next that the switch turns the lights and screens on.”
“Nah mate. Ol’ Qian set that stage up because Psy’s gonna come here and dance to Gangnam style for us.”
“What. A. Moron!”
As far as this whole Battle Bonanza thing went, Qian Lu was all-in. He’d spared no expense in setting things up for the event despite the tight deadline. The stage that he set up in the center of his internet cafe was nothing short of magnificent. It was raised, and two rows of computers sat in the middle of the stage. They were separated by custom ordered sanded glass dividers, and the floor of the stage was fitted with LED tiles that he’d gotten preprogrammed with specific light patterns that corresponded to events in the game. Above the stage, Qian Lu had rented four giant LCD screens that faced all four sides of the internet cafe. Every customer had a clear view of the game, regardless of where they were in the NetCow Cafe. As for the actual computers, Qian Lu had gotten 10 that were as cutting edge as humanly possible. Even the peripherals were all professional gaming-grade. There was nothing that would inhibit either team from playing to the best of their abilities at this branch of the NetCow Cafe, and Qian Lu was proud of that fact.
“Damn. Ol’ Qian really went all out this time, huh?”
“He really did. I can’t believe he set up a professional tournament stage in the middle of an internet cafe.”
“Probs more than worth it though.”
“Damn straight. People will come in here just to watch teams play on a stage like this.”
“Yeah, especially if our team does really well!”
“Ol’ Qian’s going to bring in way more than he invested into this, that’s for sure!”
Then, all of a sudden, a wave of silence rolled through the internet cafe. All conversations about challengers, the stage, and speculation about the tournament completely ceased.
‘They’re here! They’re here!”
“Our team is here!”
“They’ve come out!”
When Lin Feng and the rest of Team Shanghai walked out of their private room and stepped up onto the stage in the center of the internet cafe, all eyes were glued on them. No customer, besides the Lads, had seen the team that would be representing their internet cafe before now. There was a few seconds of silence as everyone took in the sight of Team Shanghai, and then pandemonium erupted from the crowd of customers. The mood had shifted from excitement and curiosity to shock and disbelief.
“T-this, this is our team…?”
“No freaking way.”
“They’re just high schoolers!”
“GG boys. We’ve lost.”
“Shit! They even have two girls on their team!”
The initial shock came from how young everyone on Team Shanghai was, but the disbelief came from the fact that An Xin and Tang Bingyao, two girls, were on the team. That disbelief came from two very different lines of thought though. One side was captivated by the beauty of the two girls, while the other one was mindblown that Qian Lu would hire a team with girls on it to represent their internet cafe.
“They’re so pretty!”
“Both are hotties for sure!”
“I mean, if the tournament was best on looks, we’d definitely win right!?”
“Focus, morons! Does anyone even know if these girls are good?”
“Looking hot ain’t gonna win us matches. All the other net cafes are gonna come correct. They’re not going to throw weak teams at us.”
“Exactly! What was Ol’ Qian even thinking when he recruited a bunch of high schoolers? Those two girls, can they even play?”
There were more than a few female gamers at the NetCow Cafe. When they heard all the doubts about An Xin and Tang Bingyao, every single one of them was pissed off.
“The fuck are you on about, twinkledick?”
“What? You think they can’t be good just because they’re girls?”
“If you’re such hot shit because you got a pecker that people need a magnifying glass to see, why aren’t you up on that stage?”
“80% of you are hardstuck at Bronze and Silver, but you’re all god gamers because you’re guys?”
“Sit the fuck down, you’re just embarrassing yourselves.”
“Eat shit and die, virgin!”
After another minute of insults and fighting the good fight against misogyny in gaming, all the girls started cheering in support of Tang Bingyao and An Xin.
“Do your best, you got this girls!”
“Girls get it done!”
“We believe in you!”
“Ignore the idiots!”
“Oh, it’s pretty packed today!” Lin Feng remarked in high spirits. He sat down in front of his computer and looked around the lobby.
An Xin turned to Zeng Rui. “What’s the time, Zeng Zeng?”
Zeng Rui checked his watch and replied, “15 minutes until 12.”
“And the tournament starts at 12. Do you think we’ll get a challenger right away?”
Zeng Rui shook his head. “Can’t say for sure. This tournament is different from others. There’s no fixed schedule for matches, and challengers get to pick who they want to face at any time. It’s possible no one will turn up. There’s also logistics to consider. It’ll take time for people to get from their internet cafe to ours.”
“This sucks! The only thing we can do right now is sit around and wait…” Lin Feng chimed in with a sigh. “Ya know what? Man! If Ol’ Qian thought ahead a bit more and signed us up for the Conqueror prize instead, we wouldn’t have to sit around waiting. We could go out and smash other teams. That’d be so much more fun!”
Zeng Rui massaged his temples. Thundering dumbass. Then he said, “It’s fine. We’re okay. Let’s just keep waiting. We can get some practice games in while we wait.”